She went away and all she kept was the weight of disfavor and the force of blame. Ill repute: what impressed her was the utter solitude and privacy of it. Now, when she no longer had youth or money, and when it seemed certain that all would be lost, she was surprised to find herself with this unexpected possession, this solitude which was a like a house in the forest, a house built from the stones of disapproval. It was a private and silent and, once she got used to it, entirely acceptable house.
Nothing stirred within it. It was as if even the animals had been warned off. It was her house, built from the substance of blame and accusation, and at the same time it was not her house at all. It belonged to those who had built it, who built walls and heaped blame. It was her house – and at the same time it had nothing to do with her. What had she done? Who was she? To those who accused her, it did not matter in the least. They took meticulous care to avoid questions and investigation, so as to maintain their verdict spotlessly intact.
In the beginning she’d resented this hotly, but in time discovered it to be a boon, a place where she could live, a space hollowed out and guarded by disfavor, by everyone’s squeamishness and avoidance of anything uncertain or discomfiting – in this case, her existence.
She’d made a home of it, of the stones that people threw, of the space they left behind when they had gone. She was amazed by how good and solid a home it was, how it stayed cool during the heat of the day and slightly warm at night. She thought of
India. From television she’d learned that many
people in villages there lived in houses built of dung. From the dung of cattle, which not only dries
without an odor, but which even can be polished till it gleams.
Sometimes she asked herself why she had chosen this, this solitary life in the forest of disfavor. She could return to the city, demand to be heard, and refute the accusations against her. She did not think more than three sentences would be required. She could say those three sentences anytime – but that would mean losing her home.
Also, she did not wish for people to be disappointed. She had the sense that, just as people wanted their sons to be doctors, their daughters virgins, their cousins dentists, what people wanted from her was for her to be a wicked and crazy woman. She had to be. Otherwise everything would have to be done over, thought again.
Her job was to be the terrible woman. Her job was to do nothing at all. Others would hang costumes, compose a script, concoct scenes and speak as though she had performed them. She had to do nothing – only consent to the role. In return she was granted a solitary home of her own.
Even the breeze was silent as it breathed through the pines around the house of disfavor. The water was cold and sweet, the stars bright. Sometimes now she heard a sound or felt a presence and she wondered, Am I alone or not?
She thought about moving to a respectable neighborhood, clearing her name, re-establishing herself. But then she thought fondly of her quiet and solemn house of disfavor, her home in the forest, where she had at last begun to live.